The projects from the 2012 Abraaj Capital Art Prize winners have been revealed at Art Dubai. Since I couldn’t make it, I’m reliant upon what’s coming up online to feed my curiosity. Thankfully, there are some great resources this year and I have been able to find some information and images. I will be sharing these works over the next week as I try to find more images and context to the works.
Curator Nat Muller had a vision of curatorial unification of the collective works of the winning ACAP artists for the first time in ACAP history. Spectral Imprints focuses “on the preoccupations the five projects share with narrating the past and the difficulties of representing something tangible of a moment in time.” (ACAP) I’m looking forward to seeing the catalog produced by Muller in collaboration with renowned designer Huda Abi Smitshuijzen Fares, Director of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography, The Netherlands. I’m sure it will explore this connection more deeply.
Raed Yassin, China
Now, everything we use is produced in China, it’s the place you produce everything for the whole world, so why not reproduce my Lebanese Civil War there too? And then it will be like a mass-produced item that everybody could have in their homes and then maybe we could come to a point where we are fine with the issue. (Disposable Memories)
Like Ibn Battuta before him, Yassin traveled to China to explore, examine, and document, and the end result is China. In the city Jingdezhen (China’s capital of porcelain) he worked with master artists to render key battles of the Lebanese civil war, amongst them, War of the Hotels (1975-1976), the Battle for Tal al-Zaatar (1976), the Israeli invasion of Beirut (1982) and the so-called War of Liberation (1989), creating 7 vases in total. The battles were all monumental in shaping the Lebanon of today in more ways than one, and that ongoing element, no beginning or perhaps more importantly to Yassin, no end-point, is reflected in the infinite roundness of the objects.
After extensive research and interviewing, as well as viewing archives of historical photographs, Yassin commissioned Beirut artist and cartoonist Omar Khoury to create the initial depictions of the battle scenes that would later be interpreted and executed on porcelain by Chinese master artists. The name of each battle is written on each vase in Chinese, along the with the name of the master and his stamp.
As usual, this project has strong elements of collaboration and exploration of the boundaries of creativity/creation/thought:
“Another layer of the project was that I didn’t want to do it myself. I wanted to commission [craftsmen] to do it, to work with masters of different cultures to see how they perceived an idea that they have nothing to do with, a war that’s not theirs, a country that they really don’t know.”
Read more about the ideas, design, and production of these pieces in Lebanon’s The Daily Star’s Reducing Civil War to Porcelain.
I find it quite interesting to mix history, craftmanship, collaboration, and collective memory with mass production, consumption, and decorative items to think through what it might take to smash through the past, freeing up that energy to tackle other issues that could shape a much different future.
Taysir Batniji, To My Brother
In 1987, Taysir Batniji’s brother was killed by a sniper in the First Palestinian Intifada. Just two years earlier, he had celebrated this same brother’s wedding in Gaza. These images, 60 inkless prints, depict those happier times. While discussing his work in an interview with the UAE’s Art In the City, he shared that his work revolves around themes of disappearance and displacement, fluctuating between global/big picture issues while staying close to his heart and personal experiences.
“To My Brother is a fragile and poetic work which requires an intimate relationship with the viewer: stand too far away and the drawings appear as blank sheets of paper, stand closer and you will be able to trace the contours of the human shapes inhabiting these drawings, the artist’s memories, and the thin lines between an ephemeral presence and a permanent absence. Stand closer and you will be able to discern that Batniji has left out certain details, or has emphasized others. As the title indicates, this series is a dedication to Batniji’s late brother Mayssara and a commemoration of his untimely death. However, this very personal history ties into a wider political context of strife in the Middle East, and shows how personal experiences ultimately, in some way or other, become part of a collective narrative.” (Abraaj Capital Art Prize)
‘Speaking about his inspiration for the execution project, Batniji refers back to the fact that hours before his death, his brother had made some drawings on a sketch pad of Batniji’s which had then been erased. The faint impressions remained though, as a last trace of his brother. Much of the artist’s work has dealt with the idea of disappearance and how we can relate this ephemeral experience, and this is perhaps his most intimate artistic exploration of this concern.’ (Art in the City)
Images: Abraaj Captial Art Prize
Projects by Risham Syed, Wael Shawky, and Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas.